Welcome to another post in my Veganuary guest post series. Mark tells us all about Devon Animal Save and why he started it. Mark also wrote an introduction post here
Devon Animal Save
While I was in America back in June/July (so many more vegan options over there btw) I was flicking through youtube and other sites and saw footage of people giving water to pigs through the sides of the slaughterhouse vehicles. It was so sad to see the pigs inside, crammed in together and some passing out from heat exhaustion. I wanted to know more about what they were doing and found out they were called Toronto Pig Save. They hold these vigils where they go to slaughterhouses and wait for the trucks so they can bear witness to the animals and offer them some comfort and water before they are killed. They take footage and pictures to show people the missing link between the animal in the field and the animal on the plate. I loved the concept as it was peaceful but so impactful. They go out to offer kindness and compassion to the animals, they don’t show any anger to the drivers or workers, and they just do their thing for the animals. I wanted to be a part of that so I was googling to find something like that in Devon. I didn’t find anything so I sent a message to Toronto asking how would I be able to start one and they put me in touch with Manchester Pig Save who helped me with the basics and setting up a Facebook page (well, as you asked Www.Facebook.com/DevonAnimalSave) and I posted in a few vegan groups locally about what I wanted to do and arranged to meet a few people. The first meeting I was nervous as I am not the most socially comfortable person, a hang up from my depression and anxieties but I went along and met with a few people. I think the first meeting there was me and 4 others. This was back in August and speaking now on the last day of December, we have over 200 members.
What Does Devon Animal Save Do?
Firstly Devon Animal Save (DAS) is a vegan group; we promote veganism and only promote Vegetarianism as a quick stepping stone on the way to veganism. We hold Slaughterhouse Vigils, Outreach Stalls, Earthlings Experience, Investigations, Chalking etc we have been on marches in London, we have marched locally in opposition to the badger cull, and we attended badger patrols. We try to get involved with other groups where possible to offer support to their events as well as hold our own. Our outreach stall is something we have a lot of success with; we take some DIY tables into town and set them up with leaflets from great people such as Animal Aid, Viva, Veganuary and PETA who provide us with literature and Vegan guides free of charge. We also use Laptops to show footage of happy animals playing free to show people how animals are no different to their dog/cat/other animal they love but don’t eat. We will also show slaughterhouse footage and/or the conditions animals are kept in, most recently in response to the Lidl advert and the Turkeys. We are lucky enough to have had the iAnimal VR headset from Animal Equality which puts the wearer in a 3D and 360 degree environment where they are narrated through a pig farm and all the way to slaughter. It is quite hard to watch, I haven’t watched it to the end as of yet and don’t particularly want to, but the users who have worn it have been shocked and we have had a number of people take the pledge to go vegan too. We always provide samples of Vegan food, mainly the sweet stuff to entice people over and we engage in discussion, answer any questions we can (providing links and sources to substantiate what we are saying) and generally try to raise awareness and make “vegan” less of an alien concept.
(A couple of pictures from our weekly outreach stall where we communicate with the public an offer advice on going veganism as well as answer questions)
The big thing we do is Vigils. The thing which made me want to start DAS in the first place.
Many people ask why we do it, why would we go to see the animals in their last moments knowing it will be upsetting. Why would we put ourselves through that? We say, it’s nothing compared to what the animals go through and we feel it is everyone’s duty to bear witness and recognise the plight of those who suffer. To be aware of it, to share it with others as to remain silent is to remain complicit. We offer soothing touches to the animals, we see them, and we let them know we see them. The vigil stays with you; it gives you an experience to share with others who contribute to the suffering. It is hard for them to argue when you can stand face to face with them and they can see the honest emotion in your expressions and hear it in your voice when you tell that what you saw with your own eyes less than an hour from where they live. Backing this up with imagery and video of cows piled into the back of wagons or responding to touches to their face as you soothe them with soft tones, or the image which always get to me the most, their faces peering out of the trucks as they wait for the backlog of other cows to unload into the slaughterhouse. Their eyes looking around and holding contact with your own. We do this for them, for the ones who follow and have been before; we do this to share their life and to give the images to the public so they can see where their food comes from. We don’t do this because we enjoy standing outside in the cold, being sworn at by farmers, having vehicles aim at us or seeing beautiful, intelligent animals walk to their death. I am sure there are a million and one things we would rather be doing but until it stops, we will be there as often as we can to make sure the animals’ voices are heard.
(Sadly, these beautiful beings’ scent lingered on my hands longer than their lives existed after taking these pictures)
I am proud of the members of Devon Animal Save, I am proud to stand beside them and proud to know them. They are an amazing group of people as are all the people out there in Save groups around the World. If you want to get involved, I am sure there is a group near you and if there isn’t, do what I did and start your own! If I can do it, anyone can.
(Some of the members of DAS after a monthly meeting and at the recent Christmas Party)
Veganism becomes so much easier when you stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about the animals. I hope you have found some parts interesting or maybe relatable or at least something to think about. Vegauary are an awesome source for help when going vegan and I can’t recommend them enough. It is a friendly community with people in the same boat and others looking to help. In a world where you can be anything, be kind. Go vegan and show you care.